Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA 2017 - PASCAL BONITZER: RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW/TOUT DE SUITE MAINTENANT (2016)

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ISABELLE HUPPERT, JEAN-PIERRE BACRI IN TOUT DE SUITE MAINTENANT

Love and money

This suave but somewhat chilly film is an ingenious mashup of old romance, new romance, and finance. It begins when Nora Sator (Agathe Bonitzer, the writer-director's daughter) comes to the too-perfect suites of a mergers and acquisitions firm called AB Finance, where she's to work. With her perfect mane of side-swiped red hair and severely plain outfit she's as cold as the place. Xavier (Vincent Lacoste), a young associate, is chilly too, but he will soften, and if you know him from Lolo or the recent Victoria you know this is an odd place for such an amiable goofball. They will have a somewhat-romance. A contretemps with Nora's much warmer sister Maya (Julia Faure), a singer-bartender who talks sexy, will get in the way, as well Nora's obsession with getting ahead, though Xavier is persistent. Nora is going to reveal some secrets just to spite Xavier and this vindictive gesture, misconstrued as loyalty and initiative, will get Nora a stunning promotion.

Meanwhile Nora meets two old associates at AB Finance. Her boss, Arnaud Barsac (Lambert Wilson) now has only contempt for the dreamy Prévôt-Parédès (Pascal Greggory). In financial district drag these two look very alike, but the casting is logical. Barsac and Prévôt-Parédès have a long history together, and Nora learns that Barsac knew her father Serge (Jean-Pierre Bacri).

There will be a big purchase-merger deal of course, to give Xavier and Nora something non-romantic to fight and compete over. It's successful-unsuccessful completion (it seems both, which doesn't strengthen the plot) will shake everything up. Prévôt-Parédès has already been pushed out, and Xavier is thinking about a more appealing line of work.

After we've met Nora, Xavier, Barsac and Prévot-Parédès, the focus turns to Jean-Pierre Bacri's Serge, father of Maya and Nora, an early-retired scientist of some sort. First Bacri does his famous grumpiest-man-in-the-world act, and later he does an off screen dying act that leads him to the hospital and a painful-touching reunion with Barsac's wife Solveig (Isabelle Huppert), who comes to find him. Once upon a time Solveig had two suitors, Barsac and Serge, and Serge was the one she really loved, but she picked the other guy, because Serge wrote terrible poetry for her - or to spite herself. (Part of Huppert's fascination is that she's always mysterious.) There is much talk of the poetry, and of one particular poem.

Maya's propositioning of Xavier at a bar, Xavier and Nora's squabble-romancing, Bacri's grumpiest man speech, Barsac-Wilson's putdowns of his old cohort Prévôt-Parédès are memorable moments. But nothing can compete with the few minutes when Isabelle Huppert is on the scene. Boy can she hold the screen, and boy is she elegant and wonderful to look at, at sixty-something. So the best scene is the ironic, nervy one where Solveig encounters Serge leaving the hospital, and they both remember their lost but never forgotten love. Watch Huppert walk for long seconds toward the camera, as the tears well up in her eyes. The lady can act. And as great artists bring out the best in their collaborators, so Bacri acquires considerable heft in this scene as well. Bingo. Forget the financial world. The film's most powerful moment evokes a lost romance.

Pascal Bonitzer shuffles together several generations and plot lines with skill here. He is obviously as well-connected as you can get in the small world of French cinema: hence this star-studded cast. It's top drawer and a pleasure to watch. And including his daughter is not mere nepotism on Bonitzer's part (though this industry is a bit inbred): Agathe Bonitzer is by now an experienced thespian who's worked for Noémie Lvovsky, Jacques Doillon, Christophe Honoré and Agnès Jaoui. But there lingers a certain suspicion that this famous screenwriter (who's worked most for Téchiné and Rivette, but many others including Raoul Ruiz, Chantal Akerman and Barbet Schroeder) isn't quite as good a director as he is a writer: another person at the helm of this film might have provided it with more warmth and umph.

Right Here, Right Now/Tout de suite maintenant, 98 mins., produced by SBS Production, and co-produced by Entre Chien et Loup and Samsa Film, debuted at Cabourg, showing also at the Champs-Élysées and Brussels festivals. It opened in French cinemas 22 Jun. 2016; AlloCiné shows the critical response was solid (3.5) but viewers have been very lukewarm (2.7). Screened for this review as part of the Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (FSLC-Unifrance 1-12 Mar. 2017).
Rendez-Vous public screenings:
Friday, March 10, 9:30pm
Sunday, March 12, 5:45pm

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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